Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas School Board candidates

Pinellas County School Board races draw a crowd

District 1

District 4

District
2

District
5

For the second consecutive election cycle, the competition for seats on the Pinellas County School Board is attracting a crowd.

By Friday, with the primary election more than four months away, 10 candidates had joined the field. Among the latest entrants: a lawyer in the public defender's office, a high school teacher, a former journalist and the owner of a real estate company.

The candidates will vie to fill four seats on the seven-member board. Their prize: a part-time job that many weeks is full-time, a salary of about $35,000 and entry into Pinellas' increasingly challenged education arena. The new board will deal with historic budget shortages, enrollment declines, a new student assignment system and continued questions over graduation rates and the achievement gap.

The heaviest activity lately has been in the north county District 4 race to succeed veteran board member Jane Gallucci, who is running for a County Commission seat.

Chris Hardman, Steven D. Isbitts and Robin L. Wikle recently joined Palm Harbor chiropractor Ken Peluso, who entered the race in January.

Hardman, 55, ran for a School Board seat in 2006. He had the endorsement of the teachers union but finished third in a race dominated by incumbents Nancy Bostock and Mary Russell.

"I just think there's some unfinished business," said Hardman, who teaches algebra and business math at Countryside High. He said the issues in the campaign include how to deal with state budget shortages, the high cost of the district's busing system and the 7:05 a.m. start time for high schools.

Hardman said of his first-period classes: "I see a considerable number of sleepy students."

He said he has a good feel for how School Board decisions affect teachers, administrators and students.

"From what I see," he said, "we don't necessarily have anybody else (in the race) that has experience within the Pinellas County School system."

Isbitts, 39, is a former reporter who in 2003 covered the transition to the Pinellas school choice system for the Tampa Tribune. One of his first stories was a look at what then was a new 7:05 a.m. start time for high schools, a subject that will loom large in his campaign.

"It's just ludicrous in my mind to start it at 7:05," he said. "To me, it's a core priority to fix that, but nobody's making it a priority and it needs to be."

Isbitts said he also would push the district to reach out more to parents and supplement its income with private sector revenue. He suggested putting ads on school property and school buses, saying it could be done tastefully.

Isbitts now works in the sales division at PODS Enterprises Inc. He addressed several misdemeanor worthless check charges on his record from 1995 and 1997.

"These were all checks for under $100 written to local grocery stores. Full restitution was made," he said. "I completely mishandled a complex identity theft situation and let it get to the embarrassing point of making it to the court system. It's a blemish on my record that I learned from greatly."

Wikle, 45, entered the race last month. She worked for nine years in the school system, five of them as a special education teacher. For the past 15 years, she has worked in real estate as the co-owner with her husband of Coldwell Banker Wikle Properties.

A Tarpon Springs resident, she has three sons, ages 21, 19 and 15. The youngest attends Tarpon High, following his older brothers who have graduated.

"I want to make a difference," said Wikle, who has been active in civic and school-related groups. "I want to spend the next season of my life dedicated to the students of Pinellas County."

She said she would focus on pushing the district to get the most out of its budget, increasing parent involvement, getting more businesses involved in apprenticeship programs and being an effective board member.

"Pinellas County's ready for an energetic School Board with some team-building and some bridge-building," Wikle said.

Nina Hayden, a Pinellas public defender for the past five years, last week became a candidate to replace longtime board member Nancy Bostock, who has entered a County Commission race.

Bostock plans to resign her School Board seat to run for the commission, which will trigger an election to fill the remaining two years of her term.

Hayden, 33, said she has seen as a public defender how juveniles' lives can spiral downward when they're charged with crimes.

"I just kind of said to myself, 'I'd love to get ahold of some of these kids before they're in front of a judge,' " she said.

The solutions to the county's low graduation rate may include more tutoring programs, higher teacher salaries and curriculum changes, Hayden said.

"We've got to make school more interesting to them so they can value education and get more excited about it."

Hayden is the only candidate so far running for Bostock's seat.

The race for the District 1 at-large seat has not changed in recent weeks. District 1 incumbent Janet Clark faces challengers Jennifer S. Crockett, Max Loden and Grant Smith.

Carol Cook, the District 5 incumbent, faces no opposition so far.

Thomas C. Tobin can be reached at tobin@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8923.

About the election

The Pinellas County School Board primary election is Aug. 26. The deadline to register to vote in that race is July 28. Get a voter registration form online at votepinellas.com or call the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office at (727) 464-6108 for information.

Pinellas County School Board races draw a crowd 04/13/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 14, 2008 1:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Lost Highway: As FHP struggles to recruit, speeding tickets plummet

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The number of speeding tickets written by Florida state troopers has plunged three straight years as the agency grapples with a personnel shortage and high turnover.

    A Florida Highway Patrol Academy class in the late 1980s. Typically, graduating classes had about 80 recruits. But the most recent class has less than half that as the agency continues to struggle to fill vacancies. [

Florida: Highway Patrol]
  2. Kidpreneurs — and adults — capitalize on gooey, squishy Slime craze

    Retail

    First it was Play-Doh. Then Gak. There have been dozens of variations for sale of the oozy, gooey, squishable, stretchable kids' toy through the generations.

    Aletheia Venator and Berlyn Perdomo demonstrate the stretchiness of their slime. - Berlyn Perdomo and her friend, Aletheia Venator, both 13, make and sell slime which can be seen on their instagram site @the.real.slimeshadyy [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  3. After last year's drug-related deaths, Tampa's Sunset Music Festival says it's stepping up safety, security

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Alex Haynes worked three jobs. He had a fiance and an infant son. He owned his own home in Melbourne. Last summer, the 22-year-old attended the Sunset Musical Festival at Raymond James Stadium.

    He left in an ambulance.

    Last year’s Sunset Music Festival was marked by dozens of medical emergencies.
  4. What you need to know for Friday, May 26

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Read this morning why Florida's most prized sweet corn is nearly extinct. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. The last farmer of Florida's prized Zellwood corn is thinking of packing it in

    Consumer

    MOUNT DORA — Hank Scott steps out of his pickup between the long rows and snaps off an ear that grows about bellybutton-high on the forehead-high stalks.

    Hank Scott, co-owner of Long and Scott Farms, shucks an ear of corn on the farm in Mount Dora, Fla., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The farm specializes in Scott's Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times